So, it’s now less than a week to go until the race of my life (so far!) – the Gold Coast Marathon!
1 week before a marathon I have previously done around 20km. 1 week before my first marathon in 2014, I did a VERY SLOW 20k around London – getting lost at one point and running around in circles, and of course stopping FREQUENTLY for photos. 1 week before Barossa 2015 I ran a lovely albeit hilly 20k in Katoomba, following part of what was then The North Face 100 (now Ultra-Trail Australia 100) course. 1 week before my last marathon (Gold Coast 2015, almost a year ago now) I ran 21.1km with my running group, pleasingly under 2 hours (last year I used a sub-2 hour half marathon as a gauge for a good run).
This year is a little different. Unlike the last 2 years, the SARRC Parklands Loop run is on the last weekend in June rather than the first weekend in July. In the last 2 years I have missed this event due to being on the Gold Coast (yeah, cue the tiny violin, sucks to be me, etc) but this year the timing was perfect – I could run it as my last long run before the marathon!
This event has 3 distances, 5km, 10km and 25km. It is run on a 5km loop, meaning that the 5km is 1 loop, 10km is 2 loops and 25km is (yep, you guessed it) 5 loops. I had originally planned to do the 25km given that it was closest to the 20k I was planning to run, however was talked out of it. I don’t tend to be able to ‘take it easy’ in a race, even if for me it is a training run. If I am wearing a bib, there is no ‘taking it easy’! Therefore I decided to enter the 10k instead, and run an easy 10 afterwards to make it up to 20km.
I’m not really comfortable with the 10k distance. 5k I can do in my sleep and have done it (not in my sleep) well over 100 times. Probably closer to 150. Half marathons I am reasonably comfortable with. 10k races, I think I’d only done 5 before this weekend. 4 Dolphin Runs (every February – along the coast, which can be challenging if you encounter a headwind!) and one 10000m race during the Australian Masters Athletics Championships this year (25 laps of the track). My 10k PB was 44:47, but I wasn’t too concerned about PBs this weekend – it was more about a good solid hit-out before the big day next weekend.
The day before, I changed my plans. I decided that the best thing to do was to run to the race, do the race and run home. There would be a big gap between each of the 3 runs, so it wouldn’t be a solid 20k, but I had done enough long continuous runs to know that I was well and truly capable of running 42.2k nonstop.
The race was held at Victoria Park, a former racecourse and now home to the annual Clipsal 500 V8 car race. (I had done one race here previously, the Hot Lap Fun Run, back in March, at which I was fortunate enough to get onto the podium – and it was an actual podium too, the same one that the drivers use!) It was about 4.5km from home so that made for a nice warmup.
I got there about half an hour before the start and the 25k race was already in progress. The 10k race started at a very civilised 9:15am. I was VERY glad I had been talked out of the 25!
I saw a few familiar faces – Simon, whose next 2 big races are the 12k City-Bay and the 100 miler next year in the Flinders Ranges (quite a versatile athlete you could say!), Liam, who had just finished night shift and come straight from work, Tina, who was doing the 5k after a big night the previous night, and Jenny, who always seems to be just that little bit ahead of me in every race. Jenny said she wasn’t sure how she would go but I didn’t really hold any hopes of beating her! I also met Nadene, who also has beaten me in every event so far this year (I think) and said she enjoyed reading my blog. She was running at Gold Coast too but ‘only’ the half. She was probably taking it easy in this race but would undoubtedly still outclass me!
There was light drizzle as we approached Go Time but it wasn’t too cold which was nice. Besides, the warmup run had served me well so I was pretty warm anyway, and I hadn’t had ANY hamstring niggles along the way!
Soon enough we were assembled on the start line. It was a small field which was nice – a bit of a contrast from parkrun and other events I have run this year! I started probably midway through the pack – I didn’t want to be dragged out too fast. But I was anyway!
My first km was 4:05 – WAY too fast and not sustainable (although it was MARGINALLY downhill.) By that stage I had already overtaken a few people and I wasn’t sure what position I was in, I knew Jenny and Nadene were both ahead of me but I wasn’t sure who else.
My next km was a much more reasonable 4:24. I settled into a rhythm and tried not to force the pace too much. I overtook the occasional 25k runner after that but don’t recall being passed by too many 10k runners (it was easy to distinguish the different distances by the colour of their bibs). I made sure I gave the 25k runners encouragement as I passed them – I couldn’t say “You’re nearly there!” because that would have been a BIG LIE, but it would have been a hard slog for some of them in particular!
The course was mostly on bitumen path and some dirt track. There had been a fair bit of rain earlier in the week but not much over the previous few days so there were just a few puddles to get around, but other than that the surface was pretty easy to run on.
It was an interesting course, quite loopy but essentially flat (my Strava recorded 40m elevation over 10km which is next to nothing).
After a slower 3rd km (marginally uphill) I was back to 4:24 for the 4th and slightly faster in the 5th, completing my first loop in 22:05 – a time I probably would have been happy with in the 5k! (And which would have got me second place as it turned out!)
I knew exactly what was ahead of me – there would be no surprises in the second half – just the same loop again! (Again I was EXTREMELY glad I hadn’t done the 5 laps – that would have done my head in!)
I overtook a few more 25km runners/walkers and also the occasional 5k competitor. Every female that was ahead of me was a potential threat to me in the 10k until proven otherwise (unfortunately I had to overtake them before I could see their bib colour!) – it appears that none of them were actually in the 10k. I could generally tell by their pace – if they were running slower than me, they were probably not a 10k runner because if they were slower, how could they be ahead of me?
Anyway, I still didn’t know what position I was in so I just went for it in the last few kilometres. I wasn’t looking at my watch by this stage – I felt my pace was right and I didn’t need to look at it to see how much further I had to go – there were markers every kilometre and it didn’t take a maths genius to know that when I saw 4km on the second lap, that meant I had 1km to go.
That was one loooong kilometre!
Towards the end, when I was approaching the finish line, there was a girl just ahead of me. Was she in the 10k? And if so, was she on her last lap? The answer to both questions was “I don’t know, but I am going to have to pass her anyway”. So just before we crossed the line, I snuck past her, crossed the line and stopped my watch. I didn’t notice if she stopped or went for another lap, or even what colour bib she was wearing, but it appears that she was NOT finishing the 10k. As it turned out my nearest competitor was over 2 minutes behind me – I could have taken it easier!
But where’s the fun in that? As it turned out, I ran an official time of 43:59, a 48 second PB! (I had run one faster 10k – as part of the 12k City-Bay last year. That SO doesn’t count, but try telling Strava that!) Oh, and a sneaky negative split too, my second lap was 21:54. And, more remarkably, I was 4th female out of 44 (12th overall out of 85), narrowly missing a podium finish! Jenny was second in 43:27 and Nadene third in 43:43. The winner, Belinda, who I didn’t know, smashed out an incredible 40:46!
In the men’s 10k, Liam finished first with what I believe was a PB and Simon second also with a PB. It was a great day for PBs! Despite the early rain it had turned out to be a nice cool morning with even a bit of sunshine!
After the race I stayed for coffee, chat and the lucky prize draw/presentations, then ran home again to complete the cumulative 20k.
It was a great confidence-builder for Gold Coast and I feel like I am SO ready to take it on!
Next week’s blog will be my Gold Coast race report – expect it to be a little late (I’ll probably write it on the plane home) and somewhat lengthy!